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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Leap of Faith

Dear brother in Christ,

Grace and peace to you.
You may be thinking twice about your decision to vote Republican.
Perhaps you feel you got more than you bargained for.
The destruction must be weighing heavily upon you.

As Christians we’re instructed to love our enemies (Luke 6:27), feed the least of us (Matt 25:35), and avoid sexual immorality (I Cor 6:18), and yet we see:

A costly invasion and occupation which now appears to have been unprovoked.
Cruel and unusual punishment of prisoners held without trial.
A slothful response to a levy failure that all could see plainly on television.
Forced abortion and prostitution in the US Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Predation of our children serving in the halls of Congress.

…The Republicans were supposed to be the party for people of the Christian faith.
And liberals like the Greens may seem immoral to you.
You may feel as though you have nowhere to turn.
Let me describe where I find refuge.
I don’t expect you to agree with me on much.
But I may be able to explain how a fellow Christian can adopt a liberal worldview.
I pray that we can find some common ground.

You believe in the bodily Resurrection, and so do I.
To me, it’s a leap of faith. I wasn’t there to see it.
Whether or not the other miracles occurred, we can agree that the teachings live on.
I pray that God will find a way to welcome into Heaven nonbelievers whose hearts are in the right place.
If He can forgive His captors (Luke 23:34), He can do that.
Whether or not you agree, we can agree that it is never too late for anyone to be saved.
Therefore, we can and should love and work alongside nonbelievers as if they were believers.
I am open to ideas from other faiths.
If I meditate to calm my nerves, nothing bad is going to happen to me.
If I light a menorah or face Mecca when I pray, nothing bad is going to happen to me.

We are of the body of Christ. We may also have the mind of Christ (I Cor 2:16). You never know where a good idea may come from. All people, even children, are important and may have something of value to contribute. It’s ok to question religious tradition.

You may believe in creationism. I believe that God created evolution. I like the divine watchmaker of our deist forefathers. A thousand years is like a day to the Lord (II Pet 3:8). I believe in the scientific method, to test all things and hold fast what is good (I Thess 5:21).

The old covenant was literally hard to follow. Uzzah touched the Ark and died (II Sam 6:6). Luckily, the new covenant replaced the old. Also, the acceptance of animal sacrifice went away (Hos 6:6), the acceptance of polygamy went away (I Cor 7:2), and the acceptance of slavery went away (Exod 22:21).

I respect the teachings of Paul, but I keep in mind that he himself admitted that he was the least of the apostles (I Cor 15:9). Some of his teachings were homophobic. If there’s a discrepancy in the scriptures, I believe that the teachings of Jesus should take precedence. As Christians I believe that our core mission is to follow the Golden Rule, to do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Matt 7:12). I want the right to marry; therefore I want others to have the right to marry.

If the soul enters the body at conception, then abortion would break the Golden Rule, but I’m not sure of that. You may cite that all of us are conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5), but I am open to the possibility that God might intervene to withhold a sinless soul. As I understand it the Bible says that if men fight and disrupt a woman’s pregnancy, it is not necessarily a capital offense (Exod 21:22), therefore it is not murder. I’m just not sure, therefore I believe that the abortion decision, risk, and responsibility rest with the female carrying the fertilized egg. Whether or not you and I can agree, I hope we can find common ground in reducing the factors that can lead to unwanted pregnancies, and in strengthening families by strengthening their opportunities.

I believe that the warrior Deborah was a great feminist in her day (Judg 4:9).

I believe in encouraging healthy lifestyle choices. The prophet Daniel went on a vegetarian diet and his health was better than those who hadn’t (Dan 1:12)!

I believe it is honorable to pony up and pay one’s taxes. Jesus did so when He instructed His disciple to get a coin from the mouth of a fish (Matt 17:27). If you don’t think your tax dollars are being spent efficiently, work to fix that. But don’t selfishly complain about what can be seen as a positive interfaith mission effort.

And finally, I’m concerned with all this obsession about the end times. If we are adhering to the Golden Rule, then we are doing everything in our power to forestall the end times. I want to live; therefore I want others to live. Even Jesus does not know when the end will come, only the Father knows (Matt 24:36). So let’s identify and prevent potential man-made cataclysms, but for Heaven’s sake, let’s not do anything to encourage or hasten our own destruction!

You may see me in church, but then again, I may opt to pray behind closed doors (Matt 6:6).

There’s a lot to think about.
I hope this has been of some help to you.
You may decide to make a leap of faith.
If you do, we welcome you warmly.

Grace and peace be with you,

Your brother in Christ,
Tom Cleland
Member, Green Party of Minnesota


At Fri Nov 03, 11:58:00 PM CST, Blogger Smokey said...

"If the soul enters the body at conception, then abortion would break the Golden Rule, but I’m not sure of that."

If the soul enters the body at conception, then a pair of identical twins only have a single soul.

No religion on Earth treats identical twins in this way.

At Sat Nov 04, 07:29:00 PM CST, Blogger Tom Cleland said...

Excellent point, Smokey! God would have to wait until the cell divides into two separate cells before introducing the souls. And if He can do that, He can withhold a sinless soul. Thanks, I feel so much better!

At Sun Nov 05, 08:26:00 AM CST, Blogger darrell said...

While I don't share your beliefs I respect what you have to say because I know that amongst Christians the things you've said are very unpopular. They're unpopular because they involve free-thinking. Free-thinking weakens the power individuals can wield over you. I don't want to scare you, but one day you may just think your way out of religion entirely, and you may just find that you're still a good, intelligent person. It's a good book, but it's difficult to read, and you've obviously read it better than most of the people who claim to share your faith. Take it easy.

At Sun Nov 05, 09:20:00 PM CST, Blogger Tom Cleland said...

Thanks, Darrell. I want to be a "free thinker" and still "keep the faith". To do it I keep sticking to the Golden Rule paradigm. (Matthew 7:12, stay on message!) I don't feel like thinking my way out of religion entirely. My spirit says "fade to black" is "not an option"!

I respect atheists, though, and I think they are sometimes more Christian than some Christians!

At Mon Nov 06, 10:40:00 AM CST, Blogger Duf said...

Tom, this is amazing. Thank you so much for directing me to read it. Your letter gives me hope - I hope you reach a wide audience.

At Mon Nov 06, 07:02:00 PM CST, Blogger Tom Cleland said...

I emailed it to all my friends and relatives, and linked to it on several religious and conservative blogs. I hope people forward it. Thanks for your encouragement, Duf!

At Wed Nov 08, 09:50:00 PM CST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link, Tom. My faithmouse cartoon was on the sites you posted on.
You may enjoy knowing that my wife, inspiration for the character of faithmouse, played lead opposite Ken Pentel in their high school production of 'Meet Me in St. Louis' wherein Ken serenaded the original faithmouse with 'take a ride with me Lucille, in my merry oldsmobile...'

At Sun Nov 12, 10:09:00 PM CST, Blogger Tom Cleland said...

Thanks, Dan, I forwarded your note to Ken...


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